Tears, relief and gratitude as Sask. residents return home after fires

People from Leader, Burstall and other communities where residents had to flee Tuesday because of nearby wildfires were both glad to return home and thankful toward the people who helped shepherd them to safety.

Warning: this story contains a photo that may be disturbing to some

Arlene Morrow was eager to head back home to Leader, Sask., Wednesday morning. (Jason Warick/CBC)

The last 24 hours were a whirlwind of emotions for Arlene Morrow.

The Leader, Sask., resident was among dozens who were told leave the community Tuesday due to a wildfire that was raging a mere 32 kilometres away.

When she got the call telling her to leave, she "grabbed some things that were special to me, my boys' booties from when they were babies and a couple of things my mother had quilted for me," she said.

She took a winter coat to stay warm, too, given the 90-kilometre winds pelting Leader at the time.

By mid-morning Wednesday, the 16 families from Leader, Burstall and Liebenthal that had decamped to Kindersley were told they could go back home.

iane Townsend and other volunteers served breakfast to evacuees at Kindersley's Clearview Community Church Wednesday morning. (Jason Warick/CBC)

Morrow learned the news just after enjoying a breakfast cooked up for evacuees by a local Kindersley church group.

"Now that I've had something to eat, thanks to this community church, and some coffee in me,

I've had my tears, I feel better. And now I'm ready to go home."

Also tearful was fellow Leader resident Fancy Sellars. She got emotional at the thought of the volunteer firefighters battling the blaze near her hometown as well as the people who guided her and her husband into Kindersley.

"It was people who were out there in very dangerous weather and they were there to guide us to Elk's Lodge," she said. "When any human being does something good, it's noteworthy. It's honourable.

Fancy Sellars of Leader, Sask., said she was thankful to the people who guided her to safety. (CBC)

"I appreciate that they did that because you hear so many times about bad things. It's very rare when you hear about the good things that people do and all the fire people and all the relief workers, this is important."

2 homes burned

Two homes were lost in the fires, according to the government: one in a rural area near Burstall and one in Tompkins. 

"The good news is that many of the rural residents had their residences protected," said Ray Unrau, a government spokesperson.

A dead cow lying about 10 kilometres south of Burstall, Sask., Wednesday morning after the wildfire. (CBC Radio-Canada)

Three farms in the Richmound area were affected by a large grassfire that hopped the Saskatchewan border from Alberta. 

"There were some livestock that were impacted," said Unrau.

One barn and one shed in Tompkins were also lost to the flames.

Schools closed

Burstall School, Leader Composite School and Haven Colony School were closed on Wednesday.

Fox Valley School remained open for students to attend, although classes were cancelled for the day.

Bus routes for some schools that remained open were expected to be affected. Drivers of those routes were expected to contact families if their bus service was cancelled.

with files from Jason Warick and Marianne Meunier